Morellino di Scansano: not as wild as we think

The Sangiovese grape grown in Tuscany’s Maremma area

Helen Farrell
June 28, 2018 - 15:48

Morellino di Scansano: for years we’ve all thought of it as the cheaper, wilder and blackberry-bombastic Sangiovese option. Let’s look again: it can be delicate and expansive, salty and sweetish, intriguing and surprising.

 

 

The vineyards at Le Pupille

 

 

Morellino is yet another epithet for the Sangiovese grape, this time in its more coastal guise. Some say the name comes from morello, meaning brown, the traditional hue of Maremma’s horses; others believe it’s a nod to the dark red, sour Morello cherry. Or maybe it derives from the size of the berries: the Italian suffix “-lino” refers to diminutives.

 

To celebrate the 40th year of the appellation, this June the Morellino di Scansano Consortium organized Rosso Morellino, a wine-centric event in Scansano itself, the prettiest of places perched on a hill and hemmed in by greenery on all sides. The aim is clear: to shine a new light on experienced winemaking that’s had a rough road among critics in recent years.

 

“The producers enthusiastically joined the initiative, a sign that this is an event that was missing locally, which is why this event aims to become a regular occurrence for the Italian wine scene,” commented Alessio Durazzi, the director of the consortium, during the presentation at the red and gold Castagnoli Theatre.

 

Having gained the top DOCG status with the 2007 harvest, the Morellino di Scansano denomination boasts 1,500 hectares of vineyards across 7 municipalities: Scansano, Campagnatico, Grosseto, Magliano in Toscana, Manciano, Roccalbegna and Semproniano. More than 360 producers make between 9 and 10 million bottles every year, 25 per cent of which ends up in restaurants and wine bars in the United States and Germany, the DOCG’s top two international markets.

 

 

Rosso Morellino wine masterclass led by sommelier Filippo Bartolotta. In the glass: Morello 1982.

 

 

At a Rosso Morellino masterclass led by star sommelier Filippo Bartolotta, famous for having guided Barack and Michelle Obama in an Italian wine tasting during their 2017 post-presidential holiday in Tuscany, oenophiles had their eyes opened to the local labels’ expressiveness and ageing potential. Fruit and flowers are pretty and playful in young wines, while Sangiovese embraces the passing of time in dated versions imbued with complexity, elegance and energy. A Morello 1982 (Sellari Franceschini) got our undivided attention with its blood and rust, truffle and thyme, salt and striking acidity, while Podere 414 2016 (Podere 414) bewitched tasters with its nervy tannins, tobacco and deep, dark fruit.

 

I could have stayed in Scansano to taste more from the 40-plus wineries that had gathered for the occasion, but the temptation to taste the great outdoors was stronger. Just outside the town stands Erik Banti (www.erikbanti.com), one of Morellino’s earliest winemakers, whose circular wooden-beamed tasting room and wine stores welcomes visitors on appointment.

 

The vineyards at Terenzi

 

 

Ten minutes south of Scansano along the Strada Provinciale 159, Terenzi (www.terenzi.eu) is a luscious haven of healthy vines complete with a decadent tasting room and lovingly restored apartments. (The Madrechiesa Morellino di Scansano Riserva 2014 is a fruity delight, made from a single vineyard of Sangiovese.)

 

Turn right out of Terenzi’s gates, carry on before taking a left on to a dirt track signposted for Roccapesta (www.roccapesta.com): the strada bianca makes its way up a hill dappled with yellow, purple and red wildflowers as a vineyard sweeps down with the Maremma landscape of isolated scrubs in the distance. It’s no surprise that the wines made by this cantina nestled so deeply in nature are potent but airy, ferrous but fruity. I stopped the car to take deep breaths of the purest Tuscan air, enamoured at being so removed from my daily reality.

 

 

The wilds of Roccapesta

 

 

One last stop before the drive back to Florence, at the northernmost boundary of the appellation near Istia D’Ombrone, Le Pupille (www.fattorialepupille.it) is a stocky but stylish farmhouse that has stood strong over time, its owner Elisabetta Geppetti a pioneer in Maremma winemaking and former president of the Consortium. Producing juicy Morellino since 1985, for a while under the guidance of Giacomo Tachis, the man behind Sassicaia and Solaia, guests can now stay on the estate or reserve a tasting.

 

Spending time in and around Scansano is an education and an exile. It’s a place where time has no currency and nature dictates the day. Go now and linger. This lush land won’t stay a secret for much longer, especially if the Consortium succeeds in its beguiling and convincing mission.

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